…or at least as long it takes for you to read this article.

Anyway, let’s not waste anymore time, we’re on a tight schedule.

You’re reading this article because there are times when you feel powerless. Maybe you feel powerless right now. There are many possible reasons – you work for a boss that you hate but you just can’t quit, you want to start a business but you just can’t think of a great idea, you want to get married but you just can’t seem to get a date, etc.

Powerless people have one thing in common: they love to use the word “can’t”. They’ve used it so often that it is natural for them but “can’t” is a dangerous word. When “can’t” is used, all progress and creativity stops. It is a declaration that there is no other solution and that’s the way it’s going to be.

The funny thing about “can’t” is that it doesn’t really mean anything on its own.

It’s merely a shortcut for three possible meanings:

I Don’t Want to …

“I can’t go to the concert tonight.” = “I don’t want to go to the concert tonight, I would rather stay home and relax.”

I Don’t Know How …

“I can’t speak Russian.” = “I don’t know how to speak Russian.”

I Don’t Believe I Can …

“I can’t lose weight.” = “Even though I know the method for losing weight and I want to lose it, I don’t believe I can lose weight.”

Before you read on, test this out. Think of a time when you used “can’t” and see if it fits one of those three meanings.

Surprised? I definitely was. I remember how excited I was when I tested out the different times I used “can’t” and realizing it really did fit one of the three meanings.

From that point on, I became aware of my usage of “can’t” and I began replacing it with the real meaning. I use to think “I can’t build my own website. I don’t know anything about html or programming.” but when I realized what I really meant was “I don’t know how to build a website.”, it made it clear why I wasn’t where I want to be and that I can do something about it. I really felt empowered. My website and blog are the results of this empowerment.

If you’re not where you want to be, ask yourself why not? If your answer contains “can’t”, is it because you don’t want to, you don’t know how to or you don’t believe you can.

If you don’t want to, then that’s fine because that’s your choice.

If you don’t know how, you can choose to learn.

The easiest one of the three to overcome is if you don’t believe you can because all you have to do is change your belief which takes about one second and can be done without getting up from your chair.

There you have it with some time to spare. Remove “can’t” from your vocabulary today and get ready to make some real progress in your goals and in your life by turning your dreams into possibilities.

Remember: There is really no such thing as “can’t”.

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Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. If you would like help applying the concepts in this article to your life, contact Robert for a free consultation by clicking here. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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21 Responses to How to Empower Yourself Forever in 5 Minutes …

  1. Robert Chen says:

    Thanks Tony. I am glad you enjoy the site.

  2. […] Self-Esteem – Extraordinary people believe they deserve their success and know that they can do anything they set their mind to. They understand that a mistake is something that they do and not who they […]

  3. […] you are not convinced that you can achieve your dream, I recommend that you take 5 minutes to empower yourself forever and then continue […]

  4. […] the good: It is possible for anyone to generate great ideas. Stop thinking that you can’t be creative and realize that you just don’t know how. You have all the resources you need to create awesome ideas and lucky for you, this article will […]

  5. […] the good: It is possible for anyone to generate great ideas. Stop thinking that you can’t be creative and realize that you just don’t know how. You have all the resources you need to create awesome ideas and lucky for you, this article will […]

  6. Chelsea says:

    I started thinking about how I cant go to graduate school. It doesn’t fit in any of those three categories because the limiting factor is money. Sure I could try for scholarships but money sometimes is another category of cant.

    • Robert Chen says:

      Hi Chelsea,

      Thank you for reading this article.

      There are people out there without money who go to graduate school. In your case, it is not that you can’t go to graduate school, you just don’t know how to get into graduate school without money. The question is what are you going to do about it? When you remove “can’t”, you are left with options such as making enough money to go to grad school or finding out how to secure a scholarship or perhaps depending on your reasons for going, even self schooling.

      If you don’t want to go through the trouble of doing all that, than maybe you don’t really want to go to grad school which is fine because you alone should make the decisions for your life. There are no right or wrong answers.

      Let me know if that makes sense.

  7. anita says:

    hi chen.. loved your blog. and nothing is inflated or plain flattery. they make sense and ring with truth, most of all, they can be put to use. great insights. thank u..keep up the good work!

    • Robert Chen says:

      Hi Anita,

      Thank you for your kind word and it makes me happy to hear that you found the article useful.

      • ryan says:

        What if you cant walk because your paralyzed from the neck down?

        • Robert Chen says:


          Thank you for your question. If I may, I’ll generalize your question as how does someone who has a physical inability outside of their control fit into the model of this article.

          I compare this example to the fact that none of us can fly. We can easily say “I can’t fly” or we can say “I don’t know how to fly in my condition”. We are physically incapable of flying on our own but at the same time, there are people constantly challenging that idea. Whether it’s with airplanes, jet packs or special suits, we can fly.

          I don’t see someone who is paralyzed from the neck down as someone unable to walk. I see them as not knowing how to walk while being paralyzed. Perhaps, one day they’ll invent prosthetics that connect to the brain to allow paraplegics to walk.

          What really matters is your outlook. People who use “can’t” give up their control of the situation. People who don’t use “can’t”, find ways to overcome.

          I hope this helps.

  8. ryan says:

    Hey! Thank you for reading my question. I wasn’t meaning to sound sarcastic if I did. My brain usually finds a way to question things. So I was really wanting to know your opinion on that. Thanks again it really helped.

    • Robert Chen says:

      No worries Ryan. It’s great to question things and to be curious. It didn’t come off sarcastic at all. Discussions like these add more value for the other readers of this article. Thank you for making that happen.

  9. ryan says:

    I just wanted to say thank you again. Your website really inspired me. It changed the way I think of things. Like I feel like there’s nothing that can stop me from doing what i want to do in life. Your right thought saying you can’t. It really destroys your creativity.

  10. james says:

    Ok I have a question. What if you can’t dance,sing or draw?

  11. […] I’ve written about this insight in detail (click here to read). […]

  12. […] of each option and then allow the other person to choose which option to take. By letting go and empowering others to solve their own problems, you’re more likely to get them to do […]

  13. Karen says:

    Thank you Robert for your article on I can’t. I never looked at it in that way. I am lost for what I want to do and everything I think about I get the I can’t do that response. So starting today I’ll be working on removing I can’t from my vocabulary and start using I don’t know how to, I don’t want to or I don’t believe I can. And I won’t just choose one of those three options I’ll work on whichever one I choose. Thank you!!!

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